For a time space travel was everything in the Soviet Union, the land of shortages—more important than food, more attainable than shoes. Yuri Gagarin, who in 1961 became the first man in space, was a rock star, heartthrob, and god rolled into one. In fact, the program remained one of the country’s few points of pride even as the monuments to it fell into disrepair.
The most emblematic of these monuments is the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics and its 328-foot titanium rocket–tipped spire. As the attraction lost its luster, it became popular not with museumgoers but with skateboarders.
Happily, those of us with fond memories of the canines Belka and Strelka (the first earthlings to return from space) can take heart: The museum is set to reopen by early 2008 after an expansion and extensive renovations. A poignant testament to the space dogs is here, as are some moon rocks, Gagarin’s reentry capsule, and many other items that make up a mother lode of space memorabilia. At 111 Prospekt Mira; 7-495/602-2073.